Macaroni and Cheese Gets a Healthy Makeover in This Creamy, Cheesy Recipe

POPSUGAR Photography | Allison Hudson Stockamore
POPSUGAR Photography | Allison Hudson Stockamore

How many times a week during this time of year do you crave macaroni and cheese? If you're like me, that would be every day ending in a 'Y'. Combine cooler weather, darker evenings, and in many cases an increased training schedule, and this comfort food comes to mind pretty much constantly.

It's super tempting, but what do to if you're on the prowl for a waistline-friendly, nutritious meal choice? Enter this mac and cheese makeover, where traditional bechamel sauce (read: butter, flour, and cream) is replaced with a healthy alternative: butternut squash, chicken broth, and milk. Nutmeg is often used in traditional mac and cheese, and it's presence here ensures familiar flavor in spite of the healthy swap.

POPSUGAR Photography | Allison Hudson Stockamore

Plus, a blend of three flavorful cheeses maintains the cheesy yumminess that's got us craving this dish in the first place. Get ready to enjoy your favorite comfort food, now with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein!

POPSUGAR Photography | Allison Hudson Stockamore

Lightened-Up Mac & Cheese

Cook Time60 Minutes
Yield8 Servings
Calories390 calories

Adapted from Cooking Light


    • 3 cups cubed butternut squash (Tip: If starting with whole squash, microwave for 45 seconds – 1 minute to make easier to slice / peel.)
    • 1 & 1/4 cups chicken broth
    • 1 & 1/2 cups 2% Milk
    • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
    • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1 pound uncooked cavatappi
    • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
    • Salt & pepper
    • 1 & 1/4 cups shredded gruyère cheese
    • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
    • Olive oil
    • Whole-wheat breadcrumbs (Tip: Make them yourself by tearing a piece of cooled whole-wheat toast and whirring in the blender until crumbly.)
    • Cooking spray
    • Handful fresh thyme


    1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

    2. Combine squash, broth, milk, garlic, and nutmeg in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash shows no resistance to a fork, about 25 minutes. Take off heat and season with salt and pepper.

    3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

    4. Place the squash mixture in a blender or food processor with the Greek yogurt. Note: Be sure to remove the center of the blender or processor lid to allow steam to escape. Cover opening with a clean kitchen towel to prevent splatters. Blend until smooth.

    5. Place blended squash mixture in a mixing bowl. Stir in all cheese but 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano Reggiano.

    6. Add pasta to squash and cheese mixture, gently stir to throughly incorporate.

    7. Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet and add breadcrumbs. Stir to coat / toast breadcrumbs.

    8. Spread pasta mixture into a 13x9" baking dish prepared with cooking spray. Top with breadcrumbs and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano.

    9. Bake for 25 minutes.

    10. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and enjoy immediately.